This case is mainly about a parent seeking reimbursement for the Lindamood Bell program which aims to develop the fundamental skills that a child needs to succeed with reading, spelling, comprehension, etc. The impartial hearing officer concluded that the placement recommended by the DOE was appropriate but the parents appealed that decision and maintained that the program offered was not appropriate. The SRO's determination on this issue boiled down to one important question: Does the Committee on Special Ed have to consider private evaluations submitted by the parent, to what extent, and did they? (Okay, maybe a few questions...)
So the answer is, yes, the committee must consider an evaluation submitted by a parent. So what does it mean to adequately "consider" something and to what extent does the CSE have to do this? Citing to another case (T.S. v. Bd. of Educ.), the SRO said that an evaluation is adequately considered when: it is read by the director of special education, portions of the report were read and summarized for the CSE, and the CSE minutes show discussion about the issues raised in the report. The CSE has to consider the results of the initial or most recent evaluation; the concerns of the parents; the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the student; etc. In this case, there was no evidence that the CSE discussed or considered either the private psychoeducational report or the private speech-language eval. As a result, the description of the child in the IEP was not accurate and his needs were not adequately identified, which means that the goals were not appropriate because they did not address the right needs and issues.
The SRO ruled that the DOE's program was therefore not appropriate. He subsequently determined that Lindamood Bell (based on the various supports that it offers and the student's obvious progress) was appropriate, and the only thing standing between the parent and reimbursement was the fact that the parent never sent the standard "ten day notice letter" (meant to inform the school district that the child will be enrolled in a private program and the parents will seek reimbursement)...
Which brings us to the next important question...which SRO Bates is going to resolve in favor of the parents: Is it fatal to your reimbursement claim if you neglect to write a ten-day notice letter to the school district? Bates says, "In this case, parents are off the hook." He relied on the fact that the parents had filed an impartial hearing request about two weeks before they enrolled their child in Lindamood Bell and pointed out that the filing of these papers put the school district on notice. He swiftly shot down the DOE's argument that a separate ten-day notice letter is required under the law and said that "the argument that a parent is required to go through the exercise of providing a duplicative written notice is unpersuasive and not supported by the IDEA." The parents therefore prevailed and were awarded full reimbursement for the cost of the program.
NOTE: This case does not directly address what would happen if the parents did not file for an impartial hearing prior to enrolling their child in the private program and also did not send a ten-day notice letter. But other cases recently decided by SRO Bates suggest that he would just reduce the percentage of the tuition that the parents are entitled to instead of denying their claim in its entirety.